Currently, only HFA inhalers are sold throughout most of the world based on the commitment to discontinue the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) because of their affect on the ozone layer. As part of that effort, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required manufacturers of albuterol inhalers use hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) in place of CFCs to propel the medicine out of the inhaler. As a result, no CFC albuterol inhalers were sold after December 31, 2008, and the pharmaceutical industry gradually decreased production of CFC albuterol inhalers while increasing their production of HFA albuterol inhalers.
The medicine in your asthma inhaler did not change. It's the substance used to push the medicine out of the inhaler that is changing. In the past, most current metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) use CFCs. CFCs are safe for patients to inhale, but they are harmful to the environment.
CFCs reduce the amount of ozone in the ozone layer that surrounds and protects the earth against the sun's harmful rays. Loss of ozone can increase the risk of skin cancer, cataracts and other health problems. Replacing the CFCs in your MDI with another substance called hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) will make the environment safer for everyone.
After switching to a HFA-based inhaler, you will notice that it has many similarities to the CFC-based inhalers, but there are also a few differences:
|Similarities of HFA |
and CFC inhalers
|New HFA inhaler |
|Same medicine in the inhaler ||Ozone-friendly to the environment |
|Shape is similar ||Might be slightly different in smell and taste |
|Size is similar ||Mist is less forceful and warmer, but the medicine is the same |
|Convenient to use ||May need to be cleaned and cared for differently (These devices should not get wet, don't use the float test!) |
Below are FAQ's to help you learn more:
- Why should I switch to an HFA inhaler?
- How do I get an HFA inhaler?
- How do I know if I have an HFA inhaler or a CFC inhaler?
- What should I expect from my new HFA inhaler?
- Is the medication the same?
- What is the cost of the HFA inhaler?
Why the switch to an HFA inhaler?
Since 1978, CFCs have been taken out of nearly every product because they reduce the amount of ozone in the ozone layer that surrounds and protects the earth against the sun's harmful rays. The loss of ozone can increase the risk of skin cancer, cataracts and other health problems.
Countries have been permitted to use CFCs for certain medical uses, such as asthma inhalers, until safe and effective alternatives have been created. With HFAs available, there is now a safe and effective alternative for asthma inhalers - CFCs. Switching to a HFA inhaler will make the environment safer for everyone.
How do I get an HFA inhaler?
To get a HFA inhler you will need to get a prescription from your physician. Work with your physician to determine which HFA inhaler is right for you.
What should I expect from a HFA inhaler?
HFA inhalers provide the same level of safety and effectiveness as CFC inhalers, but without harming the environment. The medicine albuterol in the HFA inhalers is exactly the same as the albuterol in the CFC inhalers, but there are a few slight differences that you should be aware of:
- The taste and smell is slightly different
- The sensation of the HFA spray will be less forceful than what you may be accustomed to with the CFC inhaler.
- HFA inhalers have specific cleaning instructions that can be found within the information provided with the product or by asking your doctor.
Is the medication the same?
Yes, the medicine (albuterol) in the HFA inhalers is exactly the same as the albuterol in the CFC inhalers.
What is the cost of the HFA inhaler?
HFA inhalers may cost anywhere from $30 to $60, which is considerably more than the $5 to $25 for a generic CFC inhaler. Manufacturers of HFA inhalers are implementing programs to make sure patients who cannot afford HFA inhalers will be able to get these. These programs include givaways, coupons for reducing the price paid, and patient assistant programs based on financial need.
Patients in need of financial assistance should contact The Partnership for Prescription Assistance by calling 1-888-477-2669 or visit www.pparx.org.
IMPORTANT: Quick-relief inhalers should be used only as a back-up measure to treat asthma. For example, for acute asthma symptoms, as pre-treatment for exercise-induced asthma symptoms or before being exposed to pets that you are allergic to. If you are using your quick-relief inhaler daily for asthma symptoms, contact an allergist immunologist to get your asthma under control. Find an allergist/immunologist in your area.